As a teen, you are just the right age to start taking care of your skin properly. This will help avoid skin care problems caused by improper habits. Good skin care doesn't take a lot of time and doesn't have to cost a lot of money.
Cleanse: It's important to cleanse your skin daily (especially at night) to remove dirt, oil, and dead skin cells. Washing your face also rids the skin of excess oil, which can help prevent acne. Gel and foam cleansers are typically made for those with combination to oily skin, while cream and lotion cleansers are made for normal to dry skin. If you have oily or normal/combination skin, use a gel cleanser that contains salicylic acid. Salicylic acid controls oil production and increases hydration. A cleanser containing glycolic acid (which you can get from a Dermatologist’s office) can help rid skin of dead cells, and is particularly useful for teens who get a lot of blackheads, or clogged pores. Apply cleanser very gently with just your fingers, and then work the cleanser in small circular motions all around your face. Splash clean with warm (not hot) water, and pat the skin dry.
Don’t scrub your skin: While it may be tempting to use an exfoliating scrub, you should steer clear of these types of products. Occasional gentle exfoliation is generally fine for the skin, but exfoliating skin with acne can cause inflammation and redness. Blemishes can't be scrubbed away. In fact, too much scrubbing can cause irritation and make things worse. Remember, your skin is a sensitive organ and should be treated gently. This means no gritty scrubs, abrasive cleansing pads, or fiercely rubbing with a washcloth or loofah. Avoid pore cleansing strips, as they tend to enlarge pores and provide only minor, temporary results.
Wash your hair regularly: If you have oily skin and acne, it’s very likely you have oily hair, too. If you don’t wash your hair often enough, the oil in your hair, mixed with any products you put on your hair, could travel down to your face, making your skin even more likely to break out. Try to shield your face when applying any spray-on hair products, and style your hair so it does not lay on your face, if possible.
Keep your hands away from your face: Do you know where your hands have been? If you're a chronic face-toucher, keeping your hands away from your skin will absolutely help improve it. Everything you touch has the possibility of having germs and bacteria on it, so DON’T touch your face! This is a tough habit to break, but if you touch your face frequently with unclean hands, you’re only contributing to your acne problem! Also, DON’T PICK AT YOUR SKIN. Squeezing pimples is very tempting, but you are really just damaging your skin. You might get some “stuff” out of the pimples, but this is a short-term improvement. Overall the blemish remains, and you will leave a scar behind with every acne lesion picked.
Treat: Many teens experience clogged pores, which develop into “blackheads” or “pimples.” This happens when oil glands produce too much oil, and pores get blocked with dirt, bacteria, and debris. Often, cosmetics and hair products contribute to the development of acne. While cleansers remove makeup, dirt, and oil from the skin, they don't alter the skin’s oil production. Skin products containing benzoyl peroxide may help to treat mild acne if you use them sparingly (once daily in the evening). The goal is to treat all oily areas of the face -- forehead, chin, nose, and cheeks -- not just “spot treat” where you notice pimples. Treating the areas that tend to break out may help prevent future pimples. Some of these products can cause the skin to become too dry if overused. If you feel stinging or burning, rinse your skin with water and wait until the next day to try again. You’ll have to be a bit patient when using benzoyl peroxide, as it needs to be used daily for a least a month before you'll see its full effect. Pick one treatment product and go with it – using too many products, or too often, can irritate your skin and make it worse.
*Be aware that benzoyl peroxide can bleach your clothing, towels, sheets, etc. Wash your hands before and after application of these products, and be sure they are dry on the skin before contact with any fabrics.
Moisturize your face: Water is an essential part of healthy skin. Normally, hydration moves from the inside of the skin to the outer layer. When skin lacks hydration, it becomes dry and flaky. You should drink plenty of water every day to hydrate from within, and use a moisturizer to retain the water content of the skin's top layer. The idea that people with oily skin don't need a moisturizer is absolutely false. Always moisturize after you wash and dry your face. Choose an oil-free moisturizer with hydrating properties, and you can choose a moisturizer that has sunscreen included in it to protect your skin from sun damage, as well.
Protect: After cleansing your skin in the morning, you must protect it from the sun and other environmental factors EVERY DAY. Use an oil-free moisturizer with a sunscreen of SPF of 30 or higher with UVA and UVB coverage year-round. We all know that sunscreen protects your skin from the harmful effects of sun exposure, which reduces your chance of developing skin cancer. But, did you know that it also reduces premature aging of the skin? It may not be something that you are thinking of now, but 15 years from now you'll be glad you protected your skin while in your teens.
Warrenton Dermatology & Skin Therapy Center carries a product called “UV Clear” from EltaMD Suncare, which is oil-free, fragrance-free, paraben-free, and is non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores). UV Clear helps calm and protect sensitive skin types prone to breakouts. It contains niacinamide (vitamin B3), hyaluronic acid and lactic acid, ingredients that promote healthy, and hydrated skin. It actually helps to clear skin, while protecting it.
Talk to your Parents: If acne is bothering you, or if it’s making you feel bad about yourself, tell your parents. They won't know how acne is affecting you unless you tell them. Your parents can help you to choose a good daily skincare product, and if the products from the store just aren’t working for you, they can make an appointment for you to see a Dermatologist (skin doctor) for help. A Dermatologist can prescribe acne medicines that are stronger than the products you can buy at the store, and may work even when the over-the-counter products didn't.
Some people and families are more prone to having problems with their skin than others. While you can't change your genes, you can do your best to take care of your skin by using these healthy skin care habits. No matter what your skin type, if you are unsure how to treat acne or other skin problems, talk to a Dermatologist…they are ready to help!